The right to have rights

Constitution issues

Very often in our country we hear someone use the phrase ‘I know my rights’ or ‘I am protecting my rights’ or ‘they can’t take my rights away from me’.

The truth and fact is that Caymanians have no rights, that is, no fundamental rights.

What most Caymanians believe are their rights are only privileges.

Of course Caymanians do have access to some legislative legal rights that create interests that the courts may or may not enforce.

Fundamental rights are rights protected by the written constitution of a state. Such rights are called fundamental rights because while ordinary legislative rights may be changed by any government in power to suit the necessity of the occasion in the ordinary process of legislating, fundamental rights are guaranteed by the constitution and cannot be altered by any process shorter than that required for amending the constitution itself. Fundamental rights cannot be suspended or abridged except in the manner laid down by the constitution.

Once our fundamental rights are guaranteed by the fundamental law of this country – the constitution – no organ of this country, executive, legislative or judicial can act in contravention of such rights and any act that is repugnant to such rights will be null and void.

If a Caymanian constitution that does contain fundamental rights and is regarded as the supreme law of these home lands and the power of all organs of government are limited by its provisions, then the legislature, the executive and all administrative authorities must comply with them.

The Constitution of the United States of America contains fundamental rights that are guaranteed and protected. But the Americans’ experiences to obtain those rights were not easy. They were confronted with an arbitrary king and parliament that considered themselves as superior and the Americans as inferior. From that colonial position the king and parliament tried to extract taxes from the Americans.

The Americans had no representation in the king’s parliament, so they defended against the extraction of taxes from them with the cry ‘no taxation without representation’.

They refused to pay taxes to a king and parliament in England. That defence resulted in war between the colonizer and the colonized.

In the opening incident of that war for independence in 1776 in Boston harbour the first person to be killed in the right to be free from colonial rule was a black man named Christopher Attocks who had no rights.

Many nations believed that the Americans would not win the struggle for the right to be free of arbitrarily rule. But they pressed on and eventually they prevailed.

What followed was the greatest establishment of democratic principles of the right of people anywhere in the world. Great men of integrity and of different persuasions met in New York, Philadelphia and Maryland, put their differences aside and drafted a constitution with fundamental rights to protect every American.

Indeed, America claims the right to protect the rights of Americans anywhere in the world. That great accomplishment could not have been completed without the unity of those founding fathers to build the great republic the United States of America.

Where are our statesmen and our founding brothers? Why are we not sitting down around the tables in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brack and Little Cayman to work on the provisions of a modernized constitution with rights to protect every Cayman and the rights of every other people within our borders?

We are not at war like the Americans were. We are not being forced to pay taxes, our cry is not ‘no taxation without representation’.

Our cry in this country is that we the people have the right to have those who we gave the power by our vote to represent us. We want them to sit down like the Americans did in New York, Philadelphia and Maryland and agree on a draft of our constitution to present to our administering country the United Kingdom.

The writer does not believe that the Caymanian people agreed to pay politicians lucrative salaries to promote their rivalries and ‘justa-positions’. The writer believes that we the people pay such lucrative salaries to politicians to serve us and to act especially in this case as statesmen and to present to us the supreme law of our home land; our modernized constitution. Where is the political unity and the wisdom set by those great men at Pedro St James in December 1831?

The writer is of the opinion that Caymanians have enough of the blaming and the naming. It is time that we imitate the unity of action of those great men at Pedro St James and show a united force to our administrators in England.

Caymanian people are not asking for war and constant confrontation. Cayman people are asking for the right to have the right to a decent fair wage.

Caymanian people are asking for the right to have the right to achieve in the work place. Caymanian people are asking for the right to have the right to protect their fragile environment. Caymanian people are asking for the right to have the right to define who they are and what is their culture; the right to freedom of speach and expression; the right to assemble peacefully; the right to form associations; the right to protection of life; the right not to be paid slave wages; the right not to be arrested and detained without cause; the right to be protected by the law; the right to privacy and from arbitrary entry and search; the right to be protected from discrimination; the right to property and all those other fundamental rights and freedoms that we as a people should enjoy and not taken for granted but are guaranteed and protected including the right to self determination.

It is well recorded as a most significant part of our history that on 29 May, 1957, the women of this country, some 358 of them presented ‘indentically worded petitions’ from each district for the right to vote in elections and hold public office. That historical event resulted in the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Law of 8 December, 1958, that gave Caymanian women the right to vote and hold public office. Can our representatives in 2008 also seize the occasion of this time and draft a constitution that we can present to those who rule us?

It would be a horrible wrong if politicians for personal and vindictive reasons go down into the constitutional ship and wreck the engine so that it cannot sail because they are not the captains. If that was to happen after some 45 years of rivalry, then we the Caymanian people have the right to elect people who are willing to serve us the people and protect and defend our general well being and the rights to have rights. In 2001 68 per cent of Caymanians survey insisted on rights in a modern constitution.

We have the right to have the right to have a political captain to take charge of this constitutional ship and steer it confidently, openly, with unity to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

As Wallace and Smith said in their report in 1991, ‘We find it difficult to believe that the Caymanians with seafaring in their blood would be prepared to put out to sea on a ship with four first mates but with out the captain’ We have the right to demand that the political rivalry cease and that we unite and use this opportunity to serve all the people and to save this constitutional ship with a united crew.

Mr. McField

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